Here I am again - less than a year since I left Huehue last August. August 10, in case you’re wondering. One of the saddest days of my life. We held onto some of our favorite kids as all of us wept on the bus station floor. I was so heartbroken I told Jesus I would never come back, unless it was for good because the in-between, I-don’t-know-when-I’ll-see you-again time hurts too much.

And then plot twist - Jesus provided the perfect opportunity to go, to teach some of my favorite people again for a few weeks. So in one weekend, I graduated college, moved out of one apartment and into a new one, and then the next day flew to Guatemala. Three different places and homes. Maybe I’m just overly sentimental, but I don’t think that anything echos “welcome home” as much as reunions. I’ve decided they are the best thing. With reunions, there is this mutual, overflowing, uncontainable joy that cannot be put into words, that is only seen as the sweetest hug ever. Again, like coming home.

I think that the feeling of an ideal home is something each and every one of us was made for.  Home to me looks like this: belly laughs so hard you cry, not caring what time it is, dancing and singing Coco in the street while it’s pouring down rain, and reunions that feel like it’s been forever since you’ve seen them, even if it actually has only been a day, because you’re just. so. excited. It feels like a warm cookie and a glass of milk - or fresh tortillas, beans and eggs. And essential qualities of home? Safety, consistency, freedom, authenticity. In an ideal home, there is an emphasis on gratitude and celebration in a way that honors the hard stuff. I’ve cried so many sad and happy tears here - a wonderful reminder that I am totally and utterly human.

The truth is, though, that because our world is broken, none of us have “perfect” homes. I can probably count on my fingers the number of people I know who feel all of these things almost every time they go home. I see the effect of broken homes in my students here, in my friends at home, in myself. For all of us though, Jesus is thoughtful in giving us homes in other places, sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively. For me, I feel at home in the classroom, being silly and real with a bunch of 7 and 8 year olds. Or eating helado with a 9-year-old talking about Jesus, dreams and boys (the important stuff). Home probably looks different for you, but the feelings are the same - a joy you can’t explain and a reminder of how known and loved you are by your people and by Jesus. He rewrites our stories, and it all points us to Heaven until we really go home.

One of the greatest gifts I can give my students and friends is making them feel at home, like they belong, and like there is nowhere I’d rather be than with them. That they are loved because they are loved and that the class would not be the same without them. We are all family, with one real home, and the truth is that we belong to each other.

And that’s why I love being here. I love getting to see how Jesus makes a home in my heart and in the hearts of my friends and students here, and in doing so, weaves us all together in one of the sweetest, weirdest, most wonderful pictures of home I’ve ever known.

*This blog was written by Cassie Gilboy, a former intern who recently returned to sub at the School of Hope for a few weeks

Melanie Chandler